Food: Remembering office parties past and present
When I was a kid, I was always fascinated when the grown-ups in my life talked about their “office parties.” Before I was a full-fledged member of the American work force, these galas always sounded so exotic, and I often wondered if I would ever be employed at a place that would have these often talked about events.
Over the years I have been employed at a number of different establishments and, I have to admit, I’ve attended some pretty memorable office parties. The first one was when I was a senior in high school and worked as a check-out clerk in our small town’s grocery store. The boss would host this party at a local supper club and everyone was required to dress up.
For this memorable occasion, I bought myself a deep blue velvet dress and as I slipped it over my head on the night of the party, I felt like a real grown-up. My first office party…how exciting!
I remember how strange it was to observe my co-workers at this party, though. Normally, we all wore red aprons when we were executing our duties at the store, but to see my fellow co-workers in all their finery was something. Their demeanors changed, too. The produce guy who hardly talked was full of life, at least at this get-together, and the stern and terse meat cutter turned into a jovial prankster. As the evening progressed, I observed with some amusement the “loosening up” of my co-workers and finally understood why these parties were often talked about for days afterward.
At the time, this seemed very strange to me but it was one of those life lessons you absorb and then ponder on…that sometimes people aren’t always what they seem, especially when they are out of the confines of the work place.
Since that time, I have attended many office parties over the years and while I could enumerate the similarities of these events, one thing is for sure-they sure aren’t as wild as they used to be. Nonetheless, I welcome them all the same.
Here at the Star Journal/Hodag Buyers’ Guide, we have our own little parties several times a year. They are usually held during the lunch hour and everyone brings a dish to share. Sometimes we celebrate a holiday, a co-worker’s birthday or the success of a certain project. And they are a welcome treat for me because, for a change, I don’t have to rely on a sack lunch and in addition, every one of my co-workers is an excellent cook.
This week I’ve included several recipes that are good office party additions. Taking a break to share a meal with my fellow co-workers is always a treat, but I often do remember fondly those wild parties back when I was a grocery store clerk. Seems like times have changed as far as those wing-dings go. Good thing too, because that blue velvet dress is long gone.
6 candy canes, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup) divided
1 (8-) oz. pkg. cream cheese
36 Oreo cookies, crushed
16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted.
Reserve 1 Tbs. chopped candy. Mix remaining candy with cream cheese and cookie crumbs until blended. Shape into 48 one-inch balls. Freeze 10 minutes. Dip balls in melted chocolate and then place on wax paper. Sprinkle with candy. Refrigerate at least one hour.
Cherry Tomato Caprese Bites
1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
8-oz. package fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
32 (4-inch) wooden skewers
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Thread one tomato half, one piece of cheese, and another tomato half onto each skewer. Place skewers in a shallow serving dish. Whisk together oil and next three ingredients. Drizzle oil mixture over skewers; sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper to taste.
Baked Cheese Olives
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce
40 large green olives, with pimento
In a medium-size bowl, cream together the butter and cheese until smooth. Mix in flour, paprika, cumin and hot sauce. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least one 1 hour. Dry olives on paper towels. With a ball of cheese mixture that is close in size to the olive, flatten the cheese mixture in your palm, plop the olive in the center, work the mixture up around the olive, and then very gently roll it around between your palms. Make sure the cheese mixture completely seals in the olive. Repeat with remaining olives.
Place the cheese-wrapped olives on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in freezer until frozen. Once frozen, you can store in resealable plastic bags in the freezer until you are ready to bake them.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If you are planning to bake immediately, place the prepared cheese olives in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Prior to baking, remove olives from the freezer and allow to stand at room temperature for approximately 15 minutes (while the oven is heating). Place olives on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to slightly warm.
Serve at room temperature or slightly warm. Makes 40 cheese olive balls.